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Dangerous Play

U N I T E D S T A T E S R E F E R E E

 

Summer 1990 Vol. 1, Issue 1 - A publication of the U.S. Soccer Federation

SOME TIPS ON HANDLING DANGEROUS PLAY


The wording of Law XII would appear to give the referee the power to punish ANY dangerous act: "Playing in a manner considered by the referee to be dangerous." But is that really what should be done? The answer to that question is "no." And since the answer appears to contradict the Law, some explanation is necessary. We need to consider what happens when a player plays in a dangerous manner.

Suppose a player (A) goes to head a ball that is six feet in the air, and an opponent (B) attempts at the same time to kick the ball with a raised foot. Unless he has suicidal tendencies, (A) will pull his head back away from the foot (and the ball) so as not to get kicked. In other words, his perfectly legitimate attempt to play the ball has been affected by his opponent's dangerous act. Player (B) has acted unfairly, even though it may not have been intentionally, and must be penalized under Law XII (1).

Suppose a player attempts to head a ball that is only a foot or two off the ground, at the same time player (D) is trying to kick it. What will happen? Unless player (D) is particularly anti-social, he will pull his foot back when he sees his opponent’s head near the ball. In other words, his perfectly legitimate attempt to play the ball has been affected by the dangerous act of his opponent. Player has acted unfairly, even though unintentionally, and must be penalized under Law XII (1).

In both cases, the player has been unfairly affected by the dangerous play of an opponent, who will be punished by the award of a free kick. And this brings us to the other reason why we cannot punish dangerous play by teammates: a free-kick can be awarded to a team only if they have suffered something as a result of unfair play or misconduct BY THEIR OPPONENTS. There is not a single example in the Laws of the Game of a free kick awarded for anything else.

INSTRUCTORS: In all the introductory courses you teach, please emphasize these points about dangerous play. In particular, remind referees that the whistle should be blown only when the dangerous play has an effect on what is going on. It should NOT be blown every time there is a raised foot or every time a player ducks to head a ball.

ASSESSORS: You can play a role in ensuring that we have uniformity of interpretation of dangerous play throughout the country, by correcting referees who may have misinterpreted the meaning of the Law.

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